Title: The Love Match
Author: Priyanka Taslim
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Publisher: Salaam Reads
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available now
Summary: Zahra Khan is basically Bangladeshi royalty, but being a princess doesn’t pay the bills in Paterson, New Jersey. While Zahra’s plans for financial security this summer involve working long hours at Chai Ho and saving up for college writing courses, Amma is convinced that all Zahra needs is a “good match,” Jane Austen style.
Enter Harun Emon, who’s wealthy, devastatingly handsome, and…aloof. As soon as Zahra meets him, she knows it’s a bad match. It’s nothing like the connection she has with Nayim Aktar, the new dishwasher at the tea shop, who just gets Zahra in a way no one has before. So, when Zahra finds out that Harun is just as uninterested in this match as she is, they decide to slowly sabotage their parents’ plans. And for once in Zahra’s life, she can have her rossomalai and eat it too: “dating” Harun and keeping Amma happy while catching real feelings for Nayim.
But life—and boys—can be more complicated than Zahra realizes. With her feelings all mixed up, Zahra discovers that sometimes being a good Bengali kid can be a royal pain.
Review: [THE LOVE MATCH is a fairly lighthearted book, so most of these content warnings are not explored in depth: grief regarding the death of a parent, homophobia (off page), discussions of colorism and sexism, fat phobia, and past bullying/racism.]
Priyanka Taslim’s THE LOVE MATCH was a wonderful way for me to start 2023. While the summary focuses on the budding love triangle between Zahra, Harun, and Nayim, Taslim’s debut novel is just as much about the love one can have for family, community, and yourself.
I think THE LOVE MATCH really captures that space of uncertainty after high school, made even murkier for Zahra because her family’s financial situation means she has to defer her college acceptance and work to help her widowed mother support their family. The relationship between Zahra and her mother provides a consistent undercurrent of tension throughout the book, and there were a couple of scenes between them where they discussed Zahra’s parents’ marriage that I really loved. Zahra’s mother’s thoughts about making sure Zahra had a “good match” gave the book a lot of depth.
One of the strengths of THE LOVE MATCH is how firmly rooted it is in Zahra’s Bangladeshi diaspora community. From the tea shop to the Auntie Network to Zahra’s friends, this was a rich world populated with different values and desires. I really enjoyed Zahra’s friendships with Dalia, Dani, and Ximena, especially when things became complicated between them in different ways as they all tried to figure out what their own desires and ambitions were. (Zahra’s writing subplot will have a special place in my heart.)
I can be a bit picky about my love triangles, but I was generally pleased with how this one played out. Zahra’s two potential love interests were on surprisingly equal footing for most of the book. While I don’t want to go into too much detail for spoiler reasons, I appreciated that Zahra ultimately made her decisions regarding Harun and Nayim based on what she felt was best for her, rather than too heavily weighting what others thought was best for her or what they thought she should value. In that, THE LOVE MATCH hit many of the highlights of the great coming-of-age novels.
Recommendation: Get it soon if you’re a fan of contemporary romances. THE LOVE MATCH is a strong debut, and author Priyanka Taslim did a great job of having Zahra navigate family and community expectations while trying to figure out what it is she truly wanted for her life. THE LOVE MATCH has a compelling love triangle, but even more, it really feels like “a love letter from [Priyanka Taslim] to the city and culture [she] grew up in.” I’m looking forward to Taslim’s next book.
Extras: Are You Ready for ‘A Love Match’ With Priyanka Taslim
Q&A: Priyanka Taslim, Author of ‘The Love Match’